Printable Version
Pronunciation: ee-go-ist Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Someone who is conceited, self-centered, wrapped up in him- or herself; a person with an inflated ego. 2. A person who subscribes to the theory of egoism, the philosophy that self-interest is the basis of all morality.

Notes: Today's Good Word, as you may have noticed yourself, comes in two flavors, with and without a T: egoist and egotist (see Word History for explanation). In the general vocabulary either of these forms may be used indifferently, except that only today's word, egoist, may refer to an adherent of the philosophy of egoism. We also have the option of an additional suffix, -al, on the adjective of either form: ego(t)istic or ego(t)istical. But the adverbial -ly may be added only to the extended form: ego(t)istically.

In Play: An egoist is someone completely consumed by himself or herself: "Lance Sterling is an unrepentant egoist who thinks that he is God's gift to women." The general reaction to egoism is negative but sometimes egoism is justified: "When her fifth novel climbed to the top of the best seller list, Rhoda Book earned the right to be an egoist."

Word History: Today's Good Word is based on the Latin (or Greek) word for "I", ego. The spurious T in egotist is the result of the influence of related words with legitimate Ts, such as nepotist and artist. In the Germanic languages the ancestor of ego became ik, where it remained in Dutch, but became ich in German, and simply I in English. In Old Slavic the [g] became [z] resulting in azê, then yazê, which finally became ya in Russian. When Latin broke up into the Romance languages of today, of course, Latin ego went on to become yo in Spanish, io in Italian, and je in French. (We hope that crediting our Greek friend of the Agora, Portokalos, for suggesting today's Good Word does not inflate his ego.)

Dr. Goodword,

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